DIR EN GREY – Withering to Death

One of Japan’s biggest bands finally make the big leap to American audiences with Withering to Death. First off, those new to DIR EN GREY and Japanese rock/metal bands in general may have a hard time getting what is going on here. The band have a very un-Western approach to their unique blend of j-rock, hard rock, metal, and punk that has a very pervasive Japanese stamp on it. For the most part, the band dwell in more mainstream realms as opposed to anything “obscure” and “underground.” Guitarists Kaoru and Die are the workhorses that power the DIR EN GREY machine with their strong array of riff-stylings and all around guitar skills. However, it’s the larger than life voice of Kyo that leads the songs. He can nail the soulful and soaring clean vocals while also hammering out death metal growls, screams, squeals, and falsettos. The simple fact that he belts out an abundance of catchy vocal lines validates his immense talent. The brooding yet weak, “Merciless Cult,” starts things off but it’s the second track, “C,” that really starts the album with its soaring chorus and rabid bite. “Saku” sees the band getting its most aggressive and heavy with slamming thrash riffs balanced against another soaring chorus of Kyo‘s sweet vocals. The real momentum and quality songs start with sixth track, “Jesus Christ R’n R.” The chorus is guaranteed to be stuck in your head after the first listen. “Garbage” gets back to the heavy side of DIR EN GREY. It’s filled with plenty of schizophrenics in the form of some odd tempo changes and Kyo‘s off the wall vocals. The album fails to disappoint the rest of the way as the songs are simply catchy as fuck. Taken together, there is always a schizophrenic thread running through Withering to Death though the album never loses a sense of equilibrium and balance. Though DIR EN GREY‘s fanbase in the U.S. is predominantly comprised of hardcore anime fans and others obsessed with Japanese pop culture, that should not deter heavy music fans from investigating. If one is willing to give a Japanese band that sings in Japanese a chance, one will find why the rest of the world have been going crazy for DIR EN GREY for years. (Warcon Enterprises LLC)

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